Cooking Tips

For the Fastest (and Best) Coleslaw, Microwave It

Reduce your coleslaw prep time and concentrate the flavors. 

Published Sept. 19, 2022.

Coleslaw is the go-to side for many picnics and barbecues, and with good reason. It’s one of the best ways to get rid of a lot of cabbage and it’s infinitely customizable.

But because cabbage is naturally full of water, as the salad sits the water leaches out from the chopped cabbage and dilutes the dressing. Salting and draining the cabbage before mixing it with the dressing solves this problem, but it takes time—upwards of 4 hours. 

So then you’re presented with a conundrum. Either skip draining step and be left with a puddle of liquid at the bottom of the bowl (which usually contains all the flavor) or plan way in advance. Or show up late to your barbecue.

There’s a solution: your microwave. 

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Yes, your microwave.

No, you’re not serving cooked coleslaw, you’re simply speeding up a 1-4 hour process.

Mixing shredded cabbage with salt and sugar and then microwaving it allows the cabbage to release its water. Then, after letting the cabbage cool for a few minutes, you'll squeeze out that water.

You'll then mix the drained and squeezed cabbage with the dressing, ensuring that all of the flavor will stay on the cabbage (and not end up in the bottom of the bowl).

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Our recipe for Spicy Barbecue Coleslaw is as easy as it is tasty, thanks to the microwave method. The umami-rich smoky flavors go well with pulled pork or chicken, and our method won’t sog out your bun. It comes together in just 30 minutes, including the time it takes to shred the cabbage.

If you have a cookout coming up, or you just want dinner on the table fast, microwaving your cabbage is key for the fastest (and best-tasting) coleslaw. 

Don’t worry, your slaw will still be deliciously crunchy. 

Here’s how to do it.

How to Microwave Cabbage for Coleslaw

  1. Toss 1 head of shredded cabbage, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt together in a bowl. 
  2. Microwave, covered, until just beginning to wilt, about 3 minutes. 
  3. Let cool slightly, about 5 minutes, and then transfer half of the cabbage to the center of a clean dish towel. 
  4. Gather ends of towel to form a bundle and twist to squeeze out excess water. 
  5. Transfer to a clean bowl and repeat with remaining cabbage.

From here, it’s as simple as adding the remaining ingredients for the coleslaw of your choice.

Not ready to make the slaw? The cabbage can be refrigerated overnight in a zipper-lock bag.

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